First Division - Day 30

Real Madrid 4 - Villarreal 0

Real Madrid: Casillas; Michel Salgado, Hierro (Flavio Conceiçao 46'), Karanka, Roberto Carlos; Makelele (Raúl 62'), Iván Helguera; Figo (Munitis 70'), Savio, McManaman; Guti. 4-2-3-1.
Villarreal: López Vallejo; Xavi Roca (Galván 73'), Quique Medina, Quique Alvarez, Arruabarrena; Jorge López, Amor (Jaime 70'), Javier Gracia, Calleja (Craioveanu 60'); Víctor, Palermo. 4-4-2.

Team changes: Madrid: Hierro, Makelele, Savio for Celades, Flavio Conceiçao, Morientes / Villarreal: No change.

1-0. 21. Guti. First time volley on edge of area after Roberto Carlos cross.
2-0. 50. Guti. Placed past keeper from inside area after McManaman low centre.
3-0. 54. Roberto Carlos. Thirty yard free kick into top corner of net.
4-0. 59. Guti. Simple tap in after Savio won ball and raced length of pitch to pass.

Real Madrid moved another step closer to the league championship with an easier than expected victory over Villarreal. The hero of the night was José María Gutiérrez, Guti to his friends and followers, who scored a first ever hat-trick for his club. Guti was playing up front in a side without any recognised striker, with Morientes injured and Raúl starting on the bench after only just recovered from his hamstring injury. Savio came in to the side on the left wing, with McManaman playing a roving role behind the front man.

Villarreal have been sliding down the table recently after long term injuries to Unai and Cagna, and had only picked up five points from their last six games. Nevertheless around 2,000 fans turned up at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, joining a capacity crowd swelled by Real Madrid's recent success, with a tribute before the game to ex president Ramón Mendoza who died recently. In the first few minutes Villarreal almost caught their opponents napping, with Palermo shooting just wide and Casillas turning another shot from Jorge López away for a corner. Palermo in particular had been a worry for Madrid after his two goals for Boca Juniors in Tokyo earlier in the season had deprived them of the Intercontinental cup, but apart from the early effort Karanka and Hierro kept him quiet.

The first goal from Guti in the twentieth minute was one of the best of the season, Roberto Carlos swinging a long cross over first time from the left for him to meet the ball in mid-air with the instep of his right foot and lift it over López Vallejo from the edge of the penalty area. The keeper was in fact fortunate to be still on the field, referee Ramírez Domínguez deciding only to give him a yellow card when the brought down Salgado minutes before the goal. An active McManaman laid on a second for Guti just after the break after Savio put the Englishman away down the left wing, and Madrid had the game sewn up. Four minutes later Roberto Carlos added a third from a house special free kick from well outside of the penalty area, his tenth goal of the season but his first in almost three months. The Brazilian full back had already forced an impressive save out of the keeper with an earlier free kick in the first half, and later in the game he struck a third cannonball against a post.

Then before the hour was up Guti completed his hat-trick after Savio had run half the length of the field to set him up. Del Bosque had already substituted a limping Hierro at half time, and he decided it was safe to give Raúl a little run out before Wednesday night's important Champions League quarter final with Galatasay, resting Figo a short while later and bringing on Munitis. Villarreal had a couple of cracks at goal near the end as Madrid slackened off the pressure, but Casillas kept them out, saving from Jorge López in injury time. In the end the leaders kept up their eight point gap over Deportivo, and with Valencia and Barcelona dropping points the league looks even whiter. Villarreal drop further down to eighth, and have to beat Mallorca next week to get back in the race for Europe. If not, they could go for one of the two Intertoto places. The fans would like to see their investments rewarded.